I SEE RED: Chapter Four


The World’s Most Normal Kid

[I see red.]
   I told you I had a plan for these blocks, and I really do. The long ones are the road, and I made a church out of the ones that are a bit like an arch, but they have a flat pointy on the top. Next to that, I builded a hospital which is mostly rectangles. I think we need a shop, too, where people can buy things they want and need. The teacher said I can’t bring out the toy cars if I already have the blocks out, so I have to be smart and use blocks as cars. I don’t mind because I can figure out what to do without any help, and now the smallest blocks are my cars.
   There are imaginary people in these little block cars, and they are all sick in different kinds of ways. Every person in the town is sick, but them aren’t all sick on the same day. That way, the healthy ones can take good care of the ones who feel like they’re all broken. Them can choose to go to the shops and buy things to feel better; them can go to church and say wishes that God will take all the sickness and throw it far far away, or them can let the doctors heal them at the hospital. I wonder where the people will choose to go today? I always listen to them, and let them choose for their own self.

[I see you.]
   I’m taking notes on Dallas as he plays:
Notes by Zoe Fletcher
Time: 8:55 am     Situation: Block Play, Classroom
Before: D asks the teacher if he can use toy cars in his block play. The teacher explains that he can only play with one thing at a time.
What Happened: D makes eye contact with the teacher and says, “Why?” Teacher says, “We have to make sure everyone has something to play with.” D shrugs and says, “OK.” He then finds small blocks and uses them as cars.
After: D continues playing independently.

His regular classroom teacher, Mrs. Garcia, walks over towards me. She’s professional, in the sense that she makes an effort to cover how uptight she’s feeling rather than letting it all hang out. I see it in her eyes and her clenched fists. She’s newly married, strikingly beautiful, with long black hair and a charismatic smile. She’s carrying skeletons in her closet; it’s all there in those almond-shaped eyes.
“He’s being so normal right now,” Mrs. Garcia says. “I’m sorry, I know it’s more PC to say typically developing, but you know what I mean.”
“Yeah,” I cringe. Maybe I spoke too soon about her professionalism. “I don’t really know what to do with myself when he’s settled like this.”
“Use the restroom. Grab a coffeeenjoy the down time!” Mrs. Garcia encourages me.
I’m not too jazzed about the idea of actually leaving the room, but the restroom is only a few feet away. I feel like I can make that one happen (Look at me! Living on the edge!) He’s been playing so well for an hour and a half now, and here I am justifying a trip to the bathroom. Truth be told, I usually don’t drink any liquid in the morning, so I won’t need to go to the bathroom. Dallas is likely to punch someone in the face the minute I leave the room, as was the case two days ago. Mrs. Garcia didn’t see, so I pretended it wasn’t Dallas. Today, he can’t do that or he’ll be expelled, as he probably should have been on day one. I remind myself that he’s doing great right now, and all we have is this moment. I can step out and go to the bathroom, right? For Pete’s sake, I shouldn’t be so conflicted about whether or not to go pee.
“I’m going to use the restroom,” I say as I start walking away. “If anything changes with Dallas, can you just grab him like a bear hug and sit him on the bean bag? I’ll only be a minute… maybe I should just hold…”
“Zoe,” Mrs. Garcia says, in a condescending tone. “Look at him. He’s fine!”
“OK, OK… I’m going,” I say as I walk away smiling.
Honestly, I don’t even need to use the bathroom anymore, but I could use a minute to check my email. I sit in the stall and take a deep breath, then I leave and (even though I didn’t use the bathroom) I wash my hands, so I don’t look like a gross weirdo. I didn’t even check my emailthis isn’t the day for putting distance between me and the kid. Walking back into the classroom, I’m relieved to see Dallas is still playing safely.
“Thanks for watching him,” I say to the teacher.
“It was less than a minute. What mischief could he get up to in that time?” she laughs.
I’m also laughing, but I sense it’s for a different reason. Oh, lady, you have no idea what this little slice of heaven can get up to in less than a minute. This kid can shit on demandno jokehe peed on his last teacher’s favorite book. Just found a quiet corner, opened the book, peed on it, and closed the pages. Two days later, the teacher opened the book to read aloud to the class and the pages were all stuck together… and smelled disgusting. Don’t be fooled by this angelic facehe’ll change the time on all your clocks while you’re putting a band-aid on someone else’s scraped knee, and he’ll steal your cell phone from your pocket if you’re not making eye contact. Give him a minute and he’ll run halfway to New Yorka lot can happen in a minute. But thankfully, this time, it didn’t.
Since our primary goal today is safety, I let the teacher know it’s OK to leave Dallas in the block area rather than transitioning him to snack. As we speak, he’s already missing out on the morning meeting and frankly, I don’t care. When I look around the classroom, I see at least two other kids working on individual projects, so technically he’s a functioning part of the group right now. He’s still building that block city, and it’s becoming more elaborate by the minute.
It’s so refreshing to see him acting “normally.” A little girl from the class approaches him to see if she could join the activity. My heart begins to racethis kind of situation doesn’t usually end well. Surprisingly, he seems to welcome her into his space, and it looks like they’re actually playing together.

[I see red.]
   Carolina is a girl in my class. Her is still only five, which makes me better because I am a bigger number. I only knowed her for three days but I think I win more things than her does, but here is one thing to know: Carolina is so pretty. Her won at being pretty, but I didn’t even enter that competition. Her wants to play with me and I think that is OK because last time we played her wasn’t bossy. Carolina only likes me on some days and today might be one of them.
   “What are you building?” her asks.
   “A city,” I say.
   “What place?” Carolina says.
   I don’t want to tell her because they’re my ideas from my own head and I can share this area with blocks but I can not share all my ideas. Some things are only for me.
   “Hey, I said, what place?” her says another time.
   “It’s just a city, you can make up in your head which is what place,” I a little bit yell at her with a tiny bit of an angry voice. Oopsthat made The Evil She walk over to us.
   “Hey guys,” Evil She says. “Is everything OK?”
   “He...he...he… isn’t sharing him’s ideas,” Pretty Face tattles. Now she looks less pretty.
   “I don’t have to share my ideas!” I yell again.
   “He’s right, Carolina. It’s really nice of you to be interested in what he’s doing, but it looks like he might need some space right now. Is that what you want, Dallas?” the Evil She says.  
   I nod my head.
   “Let’s use words. Can you politely tell Carolina that you need space?”
   I nod my head another time.
   “I need space,” I say all mumbly into my sleeve.
“Meany!” Carolina yells, “Dallas is a bad boy. That’s why he has no friends.”
Carolina stomps her foot before she leaves the block area in a huff, and I’m mad that she talked bad about me. I’ve only been at this school for a little bit of days, that’s why I don’t have friends yet. The Evil She is all happy and gets out the gold stars again. Why She’s happy? I just told a kid to go away. That’s not needing a sticker.

[I see you.]
   Yes! He’s getting it!
   Mrs. Garcia checks in with me, and assure her everything is under control, but ask her to follow up with Carolina. Things are better than alrightDallas is using words and complying with directions. Finally! I wish the Principal would randomly walk by right now so I could brag, but funnily enough, she only responds to ‘Hot Dog.’

[I see red.]
   Now I am back to work in the city I made for myself, by myself. I have added tons of things, like for example a pool for people to swim or take a bath. When people are sick, them shouldn’t just swim for fun because they might catch their death, but at the church, I heared a story about a sick man who sat next to a pool all day, every day. Rachel telled me. I used to know a grown up called Rachel, and her was my Sunday School teacher. Her liked me, even when everybody else didn’t want to be my friend. Her held my hand, her hugged me, her told me about Grey in heaven. Rachel said all these prayers with me, and her said that no matter what happens in my whole wide life, God and Jesus will be my friend. Jacob won’t let us go to church anymore, so I never see’d Rachel again.
   Rachel telled me about the sick man who was lying on a yoga mat by the pool because him’s legs didn’t work anymore and he just waited and waited for him’s turn to get in the pool, which would heal whoever went in the water because an angel stirred it. The problem was, the guy couldn’t do a magic swim when him couldn’t move, and nobody helped him. Jesus didn’t let someone help the guy, but he just made him’s legs better and told him to walk away with the yoga mat. That’s why we have a pool in this cityso Jesus can decide if he wants to help.
   Jesus and God are the same, like how ice is made from waterthat’s what I got teached when I went to church those times. Jesus lived on the Earth, and him could heal whoever him wanted but also the people had to want to be healed. God is the Dad, and dads can choose to listen to kids or drink beer instead. I think God is a big dad, the kind of dad who lives at your house forever, not like my Dad who left. God could leave us all if he wanted to, but I don’t think that’s the way him wants to be. God has billions of kids, but him can be their dads all at one time.
   About three or five minutes ago I pretended to get a tissue for my snot, but in real life, I took two toy cars from the box near the shelves. Them are in my pockets now, and they poking my leg, but I don’t mind because I have a plan for later. Right now, I am making the doors to the shop real wide so that the sick people can easily go there and buy things. Them will be tricked into thinking they got healed when them buy cool clothes and phones, but guess what? The people forget to buy medicine! Them buy too many lattes, so their credit cards run out of money, and they don’t pay their banks and then the men yell at the Moms, “Imma throw you and that kid out on your ass if you ever speak to me like that again, crazy bitch.”
Uh oh! The mail carrier is delivering a letter to the Mommy. Her opens the letter and it says, “We are taking your car away because you’s credit card is called Max.” The Mom in this game is crying and her man tells her to shut up.
Him is angry and her needs to watch out before him blows up like a volcano.

[I see you.]
Notes by Zoe Fletcher
Time: 10:35am     Situation: Block Play, Classroom
Before: D has been playing independently for 2.5hrs, building what appears to be a block city.
What happened:  Noise level increased at 10:32 am, as he began to look angry. D speaking to the block (people?) I think I heard him say, “I’m going to throw you out on your ass, crazy bitch” or something to that effect. One of the (people?) blocks in his left hand crashed into the building made from the arch-shaped block. The left-hand block then said, “Don’t listen to their bullshit, you can’t go there anymore, it’s closed forever.” He then knocked down the whole block city.
After:  I approached D to see if he needed to take a break. He did not respond, remained stable but mildly dysregulated. Proximity used to prevent escalation/elopement.

[I see red.]
I hate this city. I never liked it in the first place, so I knocked it all down, and you know what? I’m not going to clean it up. There’s a rule in this classroom, “You make it, you break it.” I made this city, and it is my job to break it. I won the right to break it down, and I also won these cars in my pocket. I deserve these cars at every minute of the day because the stupid teacher doesn’t know I am the boss.
   I run away from the block area, straight to the bathroom. I slam the door because I like things LOUD LOUD LOUD. I told you I had a plan for these cars! Vrrrroooom, VROOOOM, I say. Plop! The blue car did a long fall down into the toilet, and he sinked to the bottom. He can’t swim, so he’s dead from drowning. Goodbye, car! Flush! And now, the red car… he has a long journey ahead. He’s going somewhere other than the toilet. I need some tape, which is also in my pocket with my teacher’s phone. Nobody knowed I took it, because she set it down on the table and I am the winner of the sneaky award. If you act normal, stealing things is easy.
   Tape makes a loud sound when you wrap it around a phone and a blue car. I am trying to be quiet because everyone knows sneaky people do things quietly. The Evil She is calling out my name through the main door of the bathroom. She can’t come in, because teachers aren’t allowed in a kids bathroom unless someone is dying or dead. I tell her, “I’m OK!” and, “I’ll be right back!” and her tells me she’s giving me a gold star for using words. Now the tape is definitely sticked on the car, and it is back in my pocket. Time to breathe in and make my tummy little, because the glass is out of the skinny window and I am climbing out into the wide world.

[I see you.]
   Third gold star in less than three hours! I had nothing to be nervous about today. He’s been pretty solitary, but apart from that, he’s acting like the most normal kid in the world. Seriously, thank goodness for these moments to breathe. He’s been talking to himself in the bathroom lately, I think he was acting out car noises just before. When he gets out, I’ll get him to pack up the blocks and I think we can just take a game tablet break. The schedule I made this morning was OK, but not exactly realistic. If we can just get through the day without anything major, we’ll be fine, and he can stay at this school. I honestly don’t care if he learns anything today, as long as he can hit some really basic social expectations. I’m setting the bar so low a mouse could do the limbo.
Jeez, he’s been in the bathroom for a while. I’m trying not to be too much of a helicopter shadow (worst kind of support professionalsthey don’t give kids any space), but I guess it’s time I checked in.  
   “Dallas? Are you OK?” I inquire.
   I count to five in my head, because you know, he rarely answers the first time.
   “Dallas? Are you OK?” I repeat verbatim because it’s important I don’t change the wording of questions the second time I ask. He generally processes changed wording as though it was a different question, so I don’t want to confuse him. He doesn’t answer again, which isn’t unusual. Personally, I don’t like to repeat a question more than three times, so the third time has to be more than pissing into the wind. I walk into the bathroom, and the cubicle closest to the wall is locked. I look underlo and behold! No feet.
Dammit. I’m so embarrassed I let this happen againso much for trust! The friggin’ window is open, too, and I start to suspect this is how he Houdini’d his way out of here yesterday. The open part is less than a foot high, so if he got out of there he must’ve pulled some mouse level shitmice can squeeze through holes as small as 1/4in. I guess we discovered the kid equivalent.